In my previous blog, I mentioned the strange confusion between oral and aural. In fact, there are lots of words in English which are pronounced the same or nearly the same even though they are opposites. For example, hypertension means high blood pressure, but hypotension means low blood pressure, and although I can differentiate them, generally they would both be /haɪpətenʃn/. Bizarre!
In fact, languages often do not seem to do a very good job of differentiating words that need to be distinct. In Mandarin Chinese, 'four' 四 is sì (with a falling tone) while 'ten' 十 is shí (with a rising tone). Unfortunately, in much of southern China and also in Taiwan, there is no distinction between the initial sounds represented by the Pinyin letters 's' and 'sh', so these two words are only distinguished by tone. And it is usual in Taiwan to use the fingers to help indicate which number is intended, which is not so good if you are buying vegetables in the market and carrying lots of bags.
What about Malay? Does it have words that are easily confused like this? I bet it does. Anyway, I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which Malay words are easily confusable.
Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3
9 hours ago